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Analysis of and commentary on South African politics from a liberal perspective. Winner: Best Political Blog 2012.

Tag: Principles

Jacob Zuma: The man who walks in two worlds


JacobZumaSPEECH: This past Thursday I delivered an address on President Jacob Zuma to The Cape Town Press Club. For those interested, a copy of that speech follows below. It speaks to some of the themes identified in my book, “Clever Blacks, Jesus and Nkandla: The real Jacob Zuma in his own words”, and looks at the extent to which the fourth estate meaningfully interrogates Zuma’s various problematic religious and cultural convictions.

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On vision


TheThingAboutSERIES: Very often the link is rightfully made between leadership and vision. Much has been written about leadership, far less about vision. What is a vision? Why is it important and what is its effect? More importantly, what can one tell about a leader by the way in which they relate their vision to an audience, the extent to which it is inspiring or dreary? Today’s column tries to answer those questions.

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On vision


TheThingAboutSERIES: Few things better define a good leader than a powerful vision. And any compelling vision has to it, two component parts: on the one hand, a series of concrete steps – for intent must be realised by action; on the other, those values and principles which underpin and motivate for such action – for every good undertaking has the advancement of freedom behind it, and ideals are the aspirational force behind action. Each part can be abused, however, by ignoring the other. Here is how.

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On destruction


TheThingAboutSERIES: It is difficult at the best of times to plan ahead. Why cater for the possibility that something which functions well at the moment might, with time, breakdown? What an onerous undertaking. But that attitude is the very basis on which ideals and assets deteriorate – through neglect and a failure to maintain and manage their integrity. Any urgent crisis must, of course, be addressed but they are best avoided by relentlessly acting to ensure those things that work retain their strength.

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On archetypes


TheThingAboutSERIES: It is surprising how ubiquitous archetypes are in any society. Sometimes explicit, sometimes implicit, we spend much time advocating for various different stereotypes and, with that, indulging in the moral auditing that inevitably accompanies that approach. But no archetype exists in the real world, they are a fiction, and so it is worth distinguishing between principles and archetypes because we confuse the two to our great disadvantage.

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On fairness


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. Fairness enjoys a reputation perhaps more generous than is actually deserved. It is, of course, an important idea but, if it is the greater good you are interested in, fairness is no guarantee it will be secured. More likely an existing conflict will be defused. That can be important but it is just as important not to confuse the two.

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Appearance and reality: Liberal values in democratic South Africa


FEATURE: The Helen Suzman Foundation (www.hsf.org.za) has just produced edition 65 of its Journal, Focus. The edition is titled ‘On Liberty’ and devoted to exploring some of the challenges, both social and political, which have confronted South African liberalism. You can find a full copy of the edition here (PDF). Among of a range of pieces by the likes of Bobby Godsell, Charles Simkins, John Matisonn and Michael Cardo (I see Pallo Jordan even makes an appearance) is the piece I wrote, below, on liberal values and how they are often the subject of subtle negotiation, almost always to their detriment.

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On cant


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. Today a look at cant – when high ideals are evoked and language used merely to give the impression some grand plan is unfolding when, in truth, there exists a substantial gulf between what is said and what is actually done.

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